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Rates of syphilis continue to rise

Rates of syphilis increased by 20% last year, but rates of other STIs remained stable

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 05 June 2018

There was a 20% increase in rates of syphilis in 2017 compared with 2016, a report* from Public Health England (PHE) shows, while rates of most other sexually transmitted diseases remained relatively unchanged.

Rates of syphilis have been on the increase for several years, and have increased by 148% over the past decade. As 78% of diagnoses are made in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, PHE is working with partner organisations to develop an action plan to address this rise. The plan aims to increase numbers and frequency of tests in populations at higher risk of infection, to promote early detection and treatment.

Across all sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the highest rates of diagnoses continue to be seen in 16 to 24-year-olds.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, consultant scientist and head of the Sexually Transmitted Infection Section at PHE, said: “Consistent and correct condom use with new and casual partners is the best defence against STIs, and if you are at risk, regular check-ups are essential to enable early diagnosis and treatment.”

Other data published in the report show a fall in rates of genital warts, reflecting the widespread uptake of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine in girls aged 12 to 13.

The report also indicates an 8% decline in chlamydia testing and 2% drop in chlamydia diagnoses in 15 to 24-year-olds. However, there was a 22% rise in cases of gonorrhoea in 2017 compared to 2016.


*Sexually transmitted infections and screening for chlamydia in England, 2017. A report prepared by Public Health England, Health Protection Report, Volume 12, Number 20, 8 June 2018.

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